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Vic Carucci: Timing of Benjamin's release Bills' emphatic admission of mistake

Kelvin Benjamin's release from the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday was a matter of when, not if.

That it happened with four games left in the season, two days after the receiver's 16th game in a Bills uniform, made a couple of strong statements.

One, it was an emphatic admission of a major mistake by the Bills' decision-makers. Benjamin was a big-time bust in every sense of the term.

Two, the move was the Bills' way of telling Zay Jones that he is unquestionably the team's No. 1 receiver for the rest of this year and beyond.

Benjamin never came remotely close to living up to his status as a first-round draft pick, which the Carolina Panthers made him in 2014 after his standout career at Florida State. Since joining the Bills on Oct. 31, 2017, in exchange for third- and seventh-round choices, he only reinforced why things didn't work out for him in Carolina after a strong rookie season in which he hit career highs, catching 73 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns.

Benjamin couldn't stay healthy, which was a lingering problem for him with the Panthers. He never was in good physical condition, another issue for him in Carolina. And he had a poor attitude, rarely showing that he was emotionally invested in the Bills' fortunes.

In short, he seemed lazy and entitled. He also showed almost zero grasp of the team-first mentality that Sean McDermott has emphasized since becoming the Bills' coach.

Benjamin's most obvious football flaw was an inability to separate from defenders, which did the most to limit him to a mere 39 receptions for 571 yards and two touchdowns with Buffalo. About the only value he had was the ability to use his 6-foot-5 frame and long arms to win battles for contested throws. But that didn't happen nearly enough to allow him to make an impact.

Kelvin Benjamin blocking out social media, trying to salvage something in last 6 games

For the most part, Benjamin just went through the motions in almost every game he played.

The obvious question, of course, is why was he a part of the Bills in the first place? How was it that McDermott and General Manager Brandon Beane, both of whom were with the Panthers with Benjamin, failed to see what was fairly clear through the majority of the receiver's action in the six games he played for the Bills last year?

Given the typical profile of the players they have brought into the team, players generally high in character and work ethic, it is hard to process how they believed Benjamin would be a good fit.

Whether the Bills have absolutely gotten it right with Jones remains to be seen, but things are trending in a far better direction.

As a rookie in '17, and especially during last offseason, the former East Carolina star did nothing but raise questions about exactly what the Bills saw to use a second-round draft pick on him. However, in the second half of this season, Jones has elevated his game. At first, he was showing flashes, particularly in the late stages of losses.

Then, in Sunday's 21-17 loss against the Miami Dolphins, he had a breakthrough, catching a pair of touchdown passes and being a difference-maker throughout the game. Jones has quickly established good chemistry with rookie quarterback Josh Allen, and the Bills recognized they had to remove any doubt that the combination is something they are counting on for the long haul.

By jettisoning Benjamin and fellow receiver Andre Holmes, while promoting defensive end Mike Love and cornerback Denzel Rice from the practice squad, the Bills have declared that the final four games are effectively what they were the moment Sunday's game ended: the start of the 2019 preseason.

Casting aside dead weight and allowing younger players to dominate the lineup is the wisest use of the remaining schedule.

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